Arthur’s Media Diary

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Source:

This analysis is based upon 2 tracking apps – Moment on my smartphone, and RescueTime on my computer. I did not consume any content through any other devices (no books, newspapers, or TV)

Time Period:

  • RescueTime: Feb 8, 2017 – Feb 18, 2017
  • Moment: Feb 14, 2017 – Feb 18, 2017

Mobile Consumption Analysis

Using the Moment app, I tracked how much time I spent by application for 5 days.

This was not super insightful, so I bucketed the apps into these categories:

Using these categories, the analysis became more clear:

Communication and Content Consumption seemed like the most prevalent categories, but Content Consumption seemed more relevant to the nature of this assignment so I looked more closely into that category.

As this chart shows, Facebook (in gray) and YouTube (in orange) make up the majority of my sources ON MOBILE. This makes total sense:

  1. When I’m on the go, I browse through FB, and any articles that I find and read are opened within the app
  2. When I am walking, I don’t like to read much, but still like to stay up to date on news, so I typically find YouTube videos from various news networks and watch those. This explains the high YouTube minutes on 2/14, 2/17, and 2/18. On 2/15 and 2/16, during my walks to/from the T, I was on the phone, and so couldn’t consume content those days (This can be seen in the chart above, where the “Communication” category has relatively more minutes those days as compared to others)

Desktop Consumption Analysis

To analyze my media usage patterns on desktop, I had to rely on RescueTime’s free online dashboard tool.

Looking at the overall productivity summary didn’t really tell me much:

Looking across the dates, a couple things stick out:

  1. Something good for my sanity is that on weekends (2/11 and 2/12), I spend less time than most weekdays. (It also makes sense that on Tuesday (2/14), I also had relatively low time, since that’s my most class-intensive day)
  2. The split between productive time (in blue) vs neutral (in gray) vs distracting time (in red) doesn’t seem to showcase any interest trends. However, I think that’s because it’s very unclear what falls into each of those categories

Let’s try to explore that further:

As I start looking into the categories, some interesting insights start to appear:

  1. YouTube is CLEARLY my entertainment of choice….. and while I’d like to think most of that time consists of watching various news segments, realistically, I’m sure a solid proportion of that is more in the cat-video-category of content….
  2. Email and messaging (WhatsApp) take up a massive portion of time, and while that may seem surprising to most, I’m not surprised. The reality of most work today is that it is collaborative by nature. This means these tools are critical to that
  3. I’m glad facebook is not in any of these top 3 categories, yet I’d love for this to show me how much of my FaceBook time is spent reading articles

Diving a bit deeper into the categories….

I’m beginning to think that I really don’t read or consume as much content as I thought I did! All of the displayed categories are not content consumption sites (Facebook articles would link out to different tabs so would be counted separately). 

Looking at the day by day breakdown, the light gray category (Everything else) is one that I really wish I could learn more about. I’d like to think that this is the collective aggregation of my browsing and read various news sources.

One additional way I tried to check if I could dig deeper was by looking at time breakdowns by Category.

“Reference” is 3rd highest category there, which I thought could indicate consumption, but double-clicking on that, I saw that it was pretty much all OneNote and Adobe Reader (which are the tools I used most for homework and interview prep).

“Uncategorized” was in the middle of the pack, but double-clicking on that just showed me a bunch of sites associated with classes and the companies that I was interviewing for last week.

Finally, I decided to look at how the time split out by day

Looking at these categories, I would say “Communication & Scheduling” (in light blue), “Reference & Learning” (in light green), and “Design & Composition” (in dark green) all reflect time spent being productive for something career or education related, and they take up about half of the time each day. These represent a tight mix of both consumption and creation.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this analysis highlighting that I tend to spend time pretty effectively and manage to stay on task. However, as noted before, I would really love to further understand the “other” categories and specifically how my YouTube use breaks down between more useful, news-oriented content vs the youtube black hole of cat videos 🙂

Tools to Combat Fake News

 

Fake news. Clickbait. Terms that I failed to really appreciate or understand for most of my life. Then, around November of 2016, I began reading the slew of articles coming out highlighting the prevalence and impact of the many articles and websites that were producing highly spun accounts of events at best, or just blatantly false accounts of events that never happened, at worst. What made this situation even scarier was reading articles such as this, which brought to the forefront the fact that the primary discovery vehicles so many people used to find their news (Google and Facebook) could so easily be manipulated by fake news creators.

If those articles got my attention and made me aware, it was stumbling upon this video that really put the fear in me…. (check out the below)

HOW in a world where technology can facilitate the creation and propagation of lies can we trust anything? HOW will we obtain information and educate ourselves on what is going on in the world beyond what our own eyes can see?

With this motivation, I wanted to spend the time this week exploring tools that can help combat this surge of fake news. After spending some time researching the topic, what I found could be broadly put into 2 categories:

  1. Methods to understand if a piece of written work should be trusted
  2. Tools to aid in validating that images or videos are authentic and have not been tampered with

I will be focusing on the 2nd, but before I do, I thought it would be important to call out a few links that touch on the 1st.

  • This guide was put together by Melissa Zimdars and offers a great set of tips for analyzing news sources.
  • This list of fake news sites can serve as a great quick check.

Validating Images

To assess the validity of images, there seems to be 2 predominant techniques or methods suggested: (1) reverse image searching to try and identify the origin of an image and see where else it has been published, and (2) data validation to try and identify when and with what device a photo was made, image characteristics, or perhaps even the place where a photo was taken. Collectively, this is called EXIF-data. In addition to EXIF-data, some tools run error level analysis (ELA) to find parts of a picture that were added with editing

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Let’s explore one popular reverse image search tool called TinEye

While TinEye offers a host of products, I will focus on their free online tool. It works in a very simple way:

  1. Find the url for the image you want to explore
  2. Paste that url into TinEye
  3. Receive back a list of all other sites on the web where this image has been used
  4. Clicking on any of the returned images will pop up this web widget which allows you to quickly toggle back and forth between the 2 images (the original one you queried about and the similar image from a different website). This toggling UI makes it easier to spot differences in the images.

This service could prove useful in a few ways. First, TinEye will return images that are similar to the one you are searching for, so if you are wondering whether or not your image has been slightly modified via photoshop, this site will find those other similar photos and allow you to do quick comparisons (check out this example about pikachu). Second, since TinEye shows the urls for the other sites where the image shows up, you can easily scan those urls and see if some appear to be coming from questionable sites.

While this tool is great, and does serve a clear purpose, I do believe it is currently quite limited in the practicality of its use. Here are a few issues that come top of mind for me:

  1. If you think about the workflow of this tool, its effectiveness depends upon a scenario where you have a real image, and then a shady author who tampers with that real image to then re-use it in nefarious ways. But what if you have someone who took the original picture, and then modified the original before uploading it anywhere? Not only does it seem like this tool would not catch such cases, but may actually add legitimacy to them if that modified photo starts to circulate on other websites.
  2. Who exactly is this tool for? Is it for journalists who would like to include a certain image in an article before publishing? That seems to be the most likely case, though I would argue then that any journalist LOOKING to use such a tool is not the type of journalist we should be worried about spreading fake news. This tool is a great asset for the honest journalist, but, in a way, that does not protect us from the real problem, which brings me to….
  3. What practical impact does this kind of a tool have on readers? Casual readers likely will not go out of their way when browsing through articles to go confirm the validity of an image. Fake news creators are not significantly deterred by the presence of this service, and that is the fundamental limitation of this tool.

TinEye is a great idea – it is a foundational capability. However, in today’s day and age, it does not quite do enough. After doing my research this week, I am left wondering, how can such tools be leveraged as the building blocks to construct a more active form of policing of online content.

PS: A brief aside on video validation. Videos are tough! Being a diligent journalist when it comes to verifying the authenticity of a video takes a lot of time and effort. Though I didn’t want to focus on this subject here, if you are interested in seeing a really thorough walkthrough that demonstrates just how much time and effort it takes, click here.

Arthur’s Bio

Hi! My name is Arthur Sheyn, and I’m a 2nd year MBA student at MIT Sloan. To be quite honest, I was naively ignorant about the importance of the media for most of my life. Annnnndddd then this election happened. I distinctly remember that the moment I first read about whether or not Facebook should be held responsible for policing fake news was the moment I realized how important of a role the media plays in everyday society. (This John Oliver segment was also very eye opening.)

What started as the above nugget (or maybe epiphany) has now evolved into a full-blown curiosity and fascination for how news and media have evolved and must further evolve to serve an important purpose in society. This is why I am taking this class – to educate myself, and hopefully, explore some meaningful solutions for the future.

A bit about me:

  • I was born in Ukraine, and my family immigrated (as political refugees, a fact of my history that I have learned to appreciate so much more as of late) to the US in 1991
  • I grew up in San Francisco, which meant that for most of my life, I thought the diversity of my childhood was representative of the US (are you beginning to sense a theme of naiveté?)
  • Fun fact – I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer (check me out on youtube!). After I stopped competing to go to college, I took up coaching my university’s ballroom dancing team. That experience showed me just how meaningful and powerful communication can be.
  • I love action, adventure, nature, pretty much anything outside and remotely physical. One of my highlights of 2016 was going bungee jumping in New Zealand (twice!)
  • For my short professional career, I spent 3 years in management consulting and 2 years working for the digital innovation arm of a global retail company. I’ll spare you the details, since LinkedIn provides a pretty good summary!